30 Day Book Challenge….in one sitting.

1. Your 10 favourite books of all time.

Let me hear your best groans: my favourite books of all time are without a doubt the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. To a degree unparalleled by any other work of literature, the Harry Potter books had me hanging on for every word, waiting with bated breath for the next instalment, going to sleep at night and literally dreaming of Hogwarts and incessantly tempted to read and read and re-read in spite of my ever-growing pile of other unread books. But back to the actual question, my ten favourite books of all time:

  • The 7 Harry Potter books – J.K. Rowling
  • Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel

That was so difficult, it was actually painful and I feel deeply sad for all of the books I had to exclude.

2. Your 5 least favourite books of all time.

  • Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  • The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz

3. Your favourite characters and which books they’re from.

  • Dobby and Hagrid – Harry Potter
  • Julie Powell – Julie and Julia
  • Red – Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
  • Ellie Linton – Tomorrow When the War Began
  • Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons
  • Natalia’s grandfather – The Tiger’s Wife
  • Bridget Jones – Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • Scout – To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Characters you hate and which books they’re from.

  • Jessica Stanley – Twilight
  • Nanny – The Nanny Diaries
  • Alaska – Looking for Alaska
  • Tybalt – Romeo and Juliet
  • Lucius Malfoy – Harry Potter
  • Demetrius – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • John Tate – DNA

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books would you take with you? Include one reason for each.

  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho – I would take this book with me as a reminder that you can achieve anything at all that you desire if you focus your thoughts in the right direction and believe in the possibility of their fruition. I think this would be especially useful information given the momentous task I would be faced with of escaping the island.
  • Julie and Julia – Julie Powell – I would take this book because although it may seem, to the unsuspecting eye, to be just another culinary biography, it’s in truth and without exaggeration the funniest book I’ve ever read. And humour, on a desert island, would be a necessity.
  • Hatchet – Gary Paulsen – I read this book as part of a reading competition when I was in grade seven and I remember making a very clear decision that if I were ever to be faced with a situation of man versus nature, I would call upon this book. As the story of a young boy, the sole survivor of an aeroplane crash in a forest, and his journey of fighting the elements of nature, this little novel is simply brimming what handy hints for basic survival.
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel – Well, Pi got stranded in a life boat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger and he managed to survive. A book to put the wee issue of a desert island in perspective.
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin – This book happens to be the fattest of the unread books on my self and although I have no idea yet whether or not it’s any good, if I were to be stuck on a desert island, I would definitely be in need of as much fresh material as possible.

6. The best book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht

7. The worst book you’ve read in the last year.

  • The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling

8. Your favorite quotes from books.

Oh my goodness, there are just so many quotes from books that I’ve collected over the years and have adored!

  • “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.” – The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • “If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.” – Looking for Alaska – John Green
  • “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light.” – Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
  • “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
  • “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.” – Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

9. Your favorite quotes about books.

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
  • “That is a part of the beauty of literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “I am by nature a dealer in words, and words are the most powerful drug known to humanity.” – Rudyard Kipling

10. Name five absolutely great film adaptations of books.

This category is totally brilliant because there actually are some films that represent their literary counterparts in pure style.

  • Into the Wild – directed by Sean Penn
  • Fight Club – directed by David Fincher
  • The Shawshank Redemption – directed by Frank Darabont
  • The Blind Side – directed by John Lee Hancock
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Directed by David Yates

11. Name three absolutely awful film adaptations of books.

  • My Sister’s Keeper – directed byNick Cassavetes
  • Eat, Pray, Love – directed by Ryan Murphy
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – directed by Peter Weir

12. Your favorite authors.

  • Mitch Albom
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Mark Twain
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Yann Martel
  • Tea Obreht
  • Markus Zusak

13. Your favorite book from childhood

  • I’m Glad the Sky is Painted Blue: Poems of the Very Young

14. A book you regret not having read sooner

  • Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway – Susan Jeffers

15. A book you haven’t read but is on your “will read” list.

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

16. A book you haven’t read and have no intention of ever reading.

  • The Host – Stephenie Meyer

17. A book you want to like, but can’t get into for whatever reason. Why can’t you get into it?

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathon Safran Foer – I’m not sure why I can’t get into it…I have tried but perhaps not hard enough. I just find the style prohibits my ability to become absorbed by the story.

18. A book that you think is highly overrated.

  • 1984 – George Orwell

19. A book that you think is woefully underrated

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

20. The environment you most enjoy reading in

  • In transit – on a train, on a bus, on a plane with nothing to do but drink warm liquids, eat salty snacks and read juicy literature.

21. The most disturbing book you’ve ever read

  • Roxy’s Baby – Catherine MacPhail – granted I read this book when I was twelve and so its themes, which may seem relatively mild to you, were quite intense for me at the time and I therefore remember it as disturbing. Excellent, but disturbing.

22. A book you once loved, but don’t anymore. What changed?

  • Twilight – Stephenie Meyer – I know, I know, I’m ashamed to admit that as an impressionable thirteen year old, I had a love for Edward Cullen. However, I can honestly say that having actually gone back to re-read this global phenomenon, I’ve been horrified to realise how poorly written it actually is and how little appeal it now holds for me.

23. A book you once hated, but now love. What changed?

  • Macbeth – William Shakesepare – I truly despised this play when I had to study it at school. But as I’ve grown older and have explored more thematic elements of literature and theatre, I’ve come to realise how poignant and juicy and loaded with subtext much of this play actually is.

24. Your favorite series

  • It be incredibly boring and cite my very first answer: the Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling

25. The nerdiest book you’ve ever read.

  • Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery – nerdy because I read it in French.

26. Your favorite type of nonfiction book

  • Biographies and Memoirs
  • Philosophy books

27. Your favorite genre

  • Literary fiction

28. The first book you can remember reading on your own

  • Hi Fella – Era Zistel

29. An author you wish was more well-known

  • Yann Martel

30. The book you’re reading right now.

  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

A Quotable Venture

To my dearest followers,

You have stuck with me through thick and thin, through bursts of intense blogging and through periods of none at all. You have commented, shared your thoughts and wisdom, played along and made me feel as if the nonsense I write has actual value.

Now, I invite you to join me on another adventure! I know I’ve alerted to you to many side-ventures that I’ve embarked on in conjunction with Free Page Numbers but this one is for real (in other words, I’m determined to actually stick with it.) My newest endeavour is this:

The Jungle Notebook – a blog devoted to the wonderful and intriguing world of quotes and inspirational literary extracts.

To quote what has become an adolescent mantra of 2012: You Only Live Once. So make sure you expose yourself to as much juicy, delicious and inspiring stuff as possible and let us all make this lifetime count!

Join me.

Words and ideas can change the world.

Dead Poets Society

I know, I know, Dead Poets Society is a film, not a book, but it should be at the top of your to-read list nonetheless. Starring the incredible Robin Williams and directed by Peter Weir, this 1989 film tells the story of Todd Anderson and his peers at the very strict, very up-right Welton Academy. Tradition, convention and routine are fundamental features of this boys’ boarding school, everything taught word-for-word from the textbook. In short: life is boring, school is strict and the lessons are uninteresting and uninspiring. Everything a good boys school should be, right? Not according to John Keating.

John Keating is the new English teacher. He’s been employed to teach these boys poetry and is equipped with another one of those textbooks so beloved by Welton. But John Keating does not much care for by-the-book teaching and is therefore unorthodox by Welton standards. He is different. He is odd. He is a revelation. “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary,” he whispers to the class. He has them listening with bated breath, engaged like no one knew was possible in a classroom setting. And he teaches them. About love, about poetry, about literature, about life, about dreams and about how all of these things intertwine.

Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society takes literature and words and poetry and illustrates their extraordinary power as tools of influence and growth and emotion in the lives of even the most flippant, careless and rebellious teenage boys. It demonstrates with incredible poignancy the potential for language to draw people together, transcend inhibitions and change the way things are done, thought and felt. Dead Poets Society is an intellectual and emotional feast.

If you haven’t seen it, it will change your life. If you have, do you agree?

Quote of the Day – the marrow of life

“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Henry David Thoreau

I adore this quote. It’s so illustrative and provoking and it really makes you feel what Thoreau was trying to say. I think we should all strive to live in this way; to stop living our lives on a just-get-by basis and to really dig deep, harness our strengths and run with life. If when you reflect on your life, you see a dissatisfying daily routine of work, eat and sleep then you really should take a moment to think about Thoreau’s philosophy and how much juicier life could be if you were to abandon your fears and conditioned ways of thinking and dive head-first into the confusing, wonderful, abundant, terrifying, exhilarating cesspool that is life.

Looking for Alaska – what did I find?

Looking for Alaska – by John Green

Looking for Alaska is the first I’ve read of John Green’s novels and I’ll begin by saying that I have very mixed feelings about it. Recommended to me by a friend who read and adored it and subsequently insisted that I do the same, I picked up Green’s novel with the expectation that I would quite quickly find myself addicted to life at Culver Creek boarding school. My experience of it however, was far from what I expected, as is most often the case when reading a book about which you’ve developed a premature opinion. While “addicted” would be a grossly inaccurate description of my experience, I would definitely describe the book as being intriguing, insightful and certainly worth reading.

Written in first person from the perspective of Miles Halter, a scrawny, awkward sixteen-year-old boy from Florida, Green’s novel is an insightful and poignant exploration of youth, rebellion, sexuality, friendship, death and suffering. What is possibly its most intriguing aspect is the way in which the chapters are titled: “One Hundred and Thirty-Six Days Before”, “One Hundred and Twenty-Seven Days Before” etcetera, until…

Looking for Alaska, while a book of great profundity and insight, lacked the fundamentals of a great novel: absorbing plot and characters. Alaska Young, the focal point of Miles’ boarding school experience, while intended by Green to be mysterious and enigmatic, was a confusing and ill-developed character who never struck me as particularly likeable or easy to identify with. Miles himself, while serving as the actual narrator, seemed somewhat two-dimensional to me and lacked the energy needed to truly bring alive his commentary and thereby the plot. As a result of this, the story seemed a little flat in spite of the gravity of its events and never truly captivated me as a reader.

However, although this book does not come anywhere near my ‘Favourites’ list and is of a writing style that, at times and in my own personal opinion, leaves quite a lot to be desired by a nerd like myself, I did find certain phrases and paragraphs to hold some beautiful and startling truths.

“Those awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be.”

“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.”

“It always shocked me when I realized that I wasn’t the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things.”

“I wanted to be one of those people who have streaks to maintain, who scorch the ground with their intensity. But for now, at least I knew such people, and they needed me, just like comets need tails.”

“Sometimes you lose a battle. But mischief always wins the war”

As I initially stated, I have mixed feelings about this book. The story itself, I did not like. The characters, I was quite impartial to. But, as a whole, I found it to be insightful, inspirational and extraordinarily thought-provoking, with an abundance of wise and poignant sentences that I will surely keep with me for a long time to come.

I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in young minds coming to terms with guilt, grief, suffering and sexuality for it certainly does say a lot about these topics. You never know, you may actually fall in love with Alaska, Miles and their journey despite the fact that I wasn’t able to: every reader for himself!

Let me know what your thoughts are!

Quote of the Day

I’ve decided to institute a ‘Quote of the Day’ element to this blog. There are just so many wise words spoken by authors, playwrights, poets and characters and I feel it would be a massive oversight to not include them as a regular feature. I am also very open to submissions, so if you’ve collected any quotes that you’d love to share with the blogospherical community, feel free to let me know!

Today’s quote, because I’m currently reading this book, is from ‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green:

“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”